Although I myself am quite a forgiving person and I think Dr. Wa gave some great advice, I don’t think it’s completely true that unforgiven people go on with their lives without feeling guilt.
When I think of forgiveness and punishment, I can’t help but recall certain scenes from one of my favorite books, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. My favorite scene is where a young child tells her single mother to “go marry” a random stranger with whom the mother has been polite. Mistaking her mother’s politeness for flirting, the young Rahel blurts out that her mother should just go marry the stranger. Without showing anger or disciplining the young girl for her careless words the mother calmly replies, “Rahel, do you know what you’ve just done? When you hurt people, it makes them love you less.”
These few sentences from the mother’s mouth have such an impact on the young child, that she tries to win back her mother’s acceptance and affection for the rest of the novel. Rahel even tries to punish herself because she feels so bad and just wants her mother’s love. Rahel’s candor in expressing her guilt has always struck me.
Despite what Dr. Wa says, I think sometimes when we aren’t punished by the ones we’ve hurt, we can’t help but punish ourselves.
So whether we are in a position to forgive but we continue to hold grudges, or we’re seeking forgiveness and hold a grudge against ourself, I think it’s most practical to live by the words of Thomas Szasz:
the naive forgive and forget;
the wise forgive but never forget.